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Bishop Blair strongly defends call for reform of LCWR

June 11, 2012

The American bishop who conducted a Vatican-ordered assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has vigorously defended the results of that study, and the Vatican’s decision to undertake a major reform of the group.

Writing in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, said that many media comments on the Vatican announcement have been characterized by “distortions and misrepresentations of the facts.”

Bishop Blair emphasized first that the Vatican decision, announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), was not a negative judgment on the work of women religious in the US, but simply a judgment about the LCWR, a particular organization representing the leaders of many religious orders. “The biggest distortion of all is the claim that the CDF and the bishops are attacking or criticizing the life and work of our Catholic sisters in the United States,” he wrote.

The bishop went on to say that the Vatican’s concerns about the LCWR involved problems of doctrine and discipline, not engagement on social issues. Regarding his own involvement in the process, Bishop Blair objected to the use of the term “investigation” to describe his study. He explained:

“Investigation” suggests an attempt to uncover things that might not be known. In reality, what the CDF commissioned was a doctrinal “assessment,” an appraisal of materials which are readily available to anyone who cares to read them on the LCWR website and in other LCWR published resources.

Bishop Blair went on to cite several specific cases in which speakers at LCWR events, or the group’s written literature, indicated clear deviations from Catholic doctrine:

  • A keynote speaker at a LCWR event observed: “It can no longer be taken for granted that the members [of a given congregation] share the same faith.”
  • Another keynote speaker noted, without any indication of disapproval, that some women religious were “moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.”
  • Yet another keynote speaker observed tha the Vatican claims that God taught women cannot be ordained. “That god is literally ‘unbelievable,’” the speaker said. “It is a false god; it cannot be worshiped.”
Bishop Blair questioned whether it is appropriate for the LCWR—a group that operates with the official recognition of the Vatican—to provide a forum for such dissent:

Serious questions of faith undoubtedly arise among some women religious, as the LCWR maintains. However, is it the role of a pontifically recognized leadership group to criticize and undermine faith in church teaching by what is said and unsaid, or rather to work to create greater understanding and acceptance of what the Church believes and teaches?


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  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jun. 12, 2012 1:38 PM ET USA

    Lately, it seems as if articles of 'explanation' only confuse me more, but this explanation by Bishop Blair cleared up a lot of misconceptions about the LCWR issue. God bless this bishop for his courage and committment to our Lord's teachings and to the Holy Father.

  • Posted by: unum - Jun. 12, 2012 8:19 AM ET USA

    Bishop Blair is emerging as one of the "good guys" with the courage to defend the faith. We pray for more just like him.

  • Posted by: anne.adamczyk - Jun. 11, 2012 8:51 PM ET USA

    There were people at the Religious Freedom Rally in Toledo carrying signs that said "I Stand With the Nuns." At first I thought, "Great! I stand with the nuns too. Many orders have released statements condemning the HHS mandate." Then I noticed the acronym LCWR on some signs and wondered what the heck this had to do with religious freedom. Now I understand - they were just there to show their presence as anti-Catholic Catholics.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jun. 11, 2012 7:56 PM ET USA

    It is clear why the congregations represented by this leadership group are dying: why would any orthodox young woman be attracted to even investigate a religious congregation whose leaders associate themselves with heterodox positions, even anti-papal ones?